Home > Uncategorized > What is Sourcing? My reply to @TheBalazs and @GlenCathey

What is Sourcing? My reply to @TheBalazs and @GlenCathey

Well, it all started earlier this year with Glen Cathey opening up the debate on what is sourcing with his blog and this is how I was pulled in to write a blog. I know I’m bit (7 months) late to respond but better late than never!


The big debate is already on when I read articles / discussions from Sourcing Gurus like @GlenCathey who defines sourcing as a function of proactive source and engage non-applicant candidates. The response from @TheBalazs was that sourcing should be the owner of all talent supply funnel which includes all the sources – not limited to non-applicants. @SocialTalent too was discussing about whether sourcers should be doing any candidate engagement or just do research.

The global recruitment expert @GregSavage has also put forwarded his views about what is sourcing. Click on the below link to know his views about Sourcing, flirting and 🙂


Wow! Just realized that @BrainGain has also jumped into this discussion and here are her views.

Well, while I am not attempting to define sourcing (nor I have any pedigree to do that) but this is my attempt to put forward my thoughts considering my experience and observations. May be this can help to put a different perspective to building an industry-wide definition.

Before we begin, let’s take a step back and ask what we are trying to achieve with sourcing.

What are we trying to achieve with Sourcing?

  • Building an external Talent Supply Chain keeping overall objectives in mind: I believe this is the most important driver of sourcing function in overall recruitment function. Sourcing is responsible for creating a regulated external talent supply which should be able to develop a talent pipeline keeping in mind time, cost and quality quotients. It is a specialized function which makes sure it generates, manages and regulates talent supply from all the channels.
  • Candidate Engagement is a critical success factor in developing an effective supply chain. Human Capital / Talent are more than just names found through internet / phone research. Turning a potential lead into perspective candidate is vital for sourcing. This is where employer branding / social recruiting can help sourcing to build influence as a “marketing” function. Finding names has become relatively easier but real challenge lies in converting them into potential candidates which is where sourcing ads a value.
  • Marketing Intelligence / Talent Advisor: Sourcing has a first view of talent availability in the market and through engagement they can dive deep into the market realities. This should enable them to deliver a strategic view of market pertaining to their skills / region / BUs etc. They suppose to be Talent Advisors which is key in building overall recruitment strategy of where and how to look for talent. This is really a strategic sourcing for me J.

I really liked Glen’s comparison of human capital / talent sourcing with procurement’s definition of sourcing which talks about identifying company needs and matching to market dynamics which encompass all the aspects of acquisition process.

Similarly, “Sourcing” as a definition should encompass all the channels which are responsible to generate quality candidates as part of the acquisition process whether they are just being “received” OR “proactively found”.

Why Sourcing should not be just limited to non-applicants?

In past 10 years, I have worked in recruitment functions which were heavily relied on proactive passive sourcing and also in volume driven talent engine. In both these cases, sourcing has a slightly different flavor and value addition. IMHO, the value of “sourcing” function may vary depending on your market, talent availability and objective.

In the former organizations, we used to search talent outside of job portal as our aim with sourcing was to find those candidates which are not easily found on traditional sources. Challenge was to find those individuals which are not tapped by competition as skills / talent availability was rare. Hence, proactive sourcing of non-applicant talent was the only method of hiring.

In a volume driven talent acquisition engine, the objective of sourcing engine has been to make sure a) Candidates should match requirements b) there are enough candidates made available to the open jobs at any point of time c) The hiring cost should be optimized (low agency usage). The business goals are about filling up vast open roles without any delay or loss of time while optimizing the cost by driving direct sourcing. Yes, I am talking about internal sourcing function. In this case, it really does not matter if candidate sourced through job posting, referrals, social media or headhunting. Requirements often open with high-price tag of “time” factor which is one of the most critical factors. In such situations, Sourcing plays a critical role in creating, regularizing and enhancing talent supply with critical time / cost factor while making sure the quality of candidates sourced is also kept as per business expectations. Hence, sourcing organization needs to create a system to build a strong candidate inflow and they will need control to manage all the sources including reactive sourcing channels. This way, sourcing organization is making focused, structured and measurable efforts to let recruiters focus on inbound engagement, relationship development and closing. At the end – the goal is to hire talent from any source available 🙂

Even in the volume hiring, there will be few areas where sourcers will find acute need of employing non-applicant (passive) sourcing methods as not all the skills are easier to hire. However, the sourcer needs to have slightly different skill-sets than a former situation as the challenge differs.

Question: If your challenge & objective in sourcing is not similar, can you define and measure a sourcer / sourcing function in a same scale?

Non-Applicant Sourcing is really a Strategic Sourcing

The talent sourcing as a whole may have applicant / non-applicant components as per my opinion, the strategic / long term value of sourcing really lies in finding purple squirrels. I really don’t need to write about the importance of sourcing “non-applicant” (passive) candidates and how strategic it is for recruitment functions (in-house / agency). It is already established. All the sourcing engines / sourcers should definitely aim to become strategic as it clearly defines the success of talent acquisition in the longer run. If you do not have a capability to search, contact, engage and hire a non-applicant (passive) candidate – your capability of sourcer will be very limited. Also as an organization, talent engines needs to develop more strategic sourcers within their teams.

Additionally, expanding a reach beyond non-applicants allows sourcers to have more holistic view of market and get deep insights which can help them to devise more effective talent strategy.

Non-applicant sourcing (Strategic Sourcing) is clearly an IQ of any sourcing teams. Period! You can-not survive only on inbound candidate flow in today’s talent eco-system. Even if you are surviving, you do not have any competitive advantage.

BTW – you can also do non-applicant sourcing from job portals. Hence, it’s not really about which source you use to do strategic-sourcing – it’s about how and when!

Just to summarize

  • Sourcing has to have a component of candidate engagement without which it merely becomes a research function.
  • Sourcing as a generic definition can encompass candidates who are applicant and non-applicants. It depends on what are your challenges and objective with sourcing?
  • Non-applicant sourcing is really a strategic sourcing and by far the largest value addition to the recruitment process.

My views are based on my varied experience in global and India sourcing / recruitment organizations. As we are trying to build a definition of sourcing, it should be applicable to varied kinds of sourcers and talent acquisition organizations. I hope my views provide a bit of different perspective and help our industry to come up with more wide definition of sourcing.

Let the debate continues… Just may be, we should reach out to larger sourcing community around the world and do a survey on this?

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